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How 1980s toys make modern day billions

When "Jurassic World" ( CMCSA) debuted this month, it didn’t just shatter box office records. It introduced or reintroduced viewers to the "Jurassic Park" franchise, last seen in theaters 14 years ago. That means a whole new reason for toysellers to market velociraptor claws and Indominus Rex figures.

Those dinosaurs aren't the only ones making a comeback. Nowadays, a trip to the toy store is more like a trip down memory lane for adults. My Little Pony, Transformers and more, each reimagined for a new generation of kids.


So why do companies like Hasbro ( HAS) and Mattell ( MAT) bring back a toy from past decades?

For one, "nostalgic value always wins at retail," Steph Wissink, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, tells us in the video above. "Anytime you can create an emotional connection with a consumer, it draws them in and likely draws them to purchase." 

And the emotional connection of course, is because these are the brands parents grew up with and are now buying for their kids.

Wissink says there's a benefit for the companies too. The intellectual property, at least, has already been paid for. Making it a modern day success, though, takes investment, which often goes well beyond toys.

Take My Little Pony. First popular in the 80s, Hasbro says it re-launched the brand in 2003, but it was the 2010 reboot with a new look and an animated series now in its fifth season that helped catapult My Little Pony to a billion dollars in sales last year -- it's best year ever. A My Little Pony movie is in the works, due out in 2017. 

"Anything that draws back on these large media properties, especially coming back to the movie theatre, are very promising for economics around toy sales," says Wissink.


That’s been the case for Transformers. The brand has been around since 1984 with cartoons and updated toys through the years, but the launch of the live-action film franchise in 2007 bolstered its popularity -- helping sell 75 million action figures and billions of dollars in Transformers merchandise in the years since, according to the company.


But bringing back a beloved brand doesn’t always guarantee an enduring hit.

“Brands like Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids that have resurfaced and then gone away again -- those didn’t have that stickiness or that value proposition economically or for the consumer,” Wissink tells us.

 And this year, parents will continue to see childhood characters brought back for their kids. In October, “Jem and the Holograms” is slated to hit theatres. It’s a movie adaptation of Hasbro’s 1985 to 1988 animated show, bringing the pop star characters to a new generation. You can still find the dolls from the 80s on eBay. The 2015 push will involve a makeup line at Sephora.

Also coming, the 3D Viewmaster is due to make a fresh comeback this Fall, with Google (GOOG) helping Mattel bring it into the digital age with virtual reality technology

There’s a new installment of "Star Wars" coming in December, ten years after the last film in the series. And Wissink says there’s talk of a new incarnation of the 1980s cartoon and toy line, "He-Man Masters of the Universe."